Wildhorse Lake is located at the bottom of a deep glacial cirque surrounded by rocky walls on three sides. Just one side of the lake is open with a view of the horizon—a stunning landscape created by ancient lava flows. Visitors can marvel views of Alvord Desert, and Wildhorse canyon below the lake. This arid bowl is treeless but has many wildflowers in the summer season. The best time to visit Wildhorse Lake in Steens Mountains is from July through October.
The 2.5-mi (4-km) hike to the lake starts from the parking area just below Steens Mountain. The trail descends 1200 ft (366 m) into a bowl located at the head of Wildhorse Canyon. The area that belongs to Steens Mountain Wilderness is perfect for backpacking, swimming and relaxing on a summer day. It's also an excellent spot to observe bighorn sheep.
The Wildhorse Lake trail can be accessed from Wild Steens Mountain Loop Road not far from Frenchglen, Oregon. The route climbs to the rim and ends at a parking area leading to the trailhead. It is the highest road in Oregon.
When is the best time to visit Wildhorse Lake?
Wildhorse Lake is a great place to be from July to October, thanks to the mild weather and beautiful wildflowers. During these months when temperatures are around 70°F, visitors can take advantage of several outdoor activities such as swimming, hiking, wildlife viewing and backpacking. Show more
Where is Wildhorse Lake located?
Located in Steens Mountains, in South-Eastern Oregon, Wildhorse Lake is a glacial lake surrounded by rocky walls on three sides, offering panoramic views of Alvord Desert and Wildhorse Canyon. Access to the lake is via a 2.5 mile (4km) hike from the parking area just below Steens Mountain Wilderness. Show more
How long is the hike to Wildhorse Lake?
To arrive at Wildhorse Lake, hikers need to embark on a 2.5-mile (4km) hike with a 1,200 ft (366m) vertical drop into the head of Wildhorse Canyon. The trail is moderate and contains some steep sections, but it offers fantastic views of wildflowers, bighorn sheep, and other species such as birds. The stunning views along the trail make the effort of the hike worth it. Show more
What activities can be done at Wildhorse Lake?
In addition to enjoying the natural beauty of the lake and surrounding landscape, there are many other outdoor activities to be enjoyed at Wildhorse Lake. Visitors can hike, camp, stargaze, and swim in the crystal-clear water of the lake. Additionally, this area is home to bighorn sheep and other wildlife species that can be spotted during the hike to the lake. The summer months are dotted with blooming wildflowers that provide an impressive and colorful display. Show more
Is Wildhorse Lake accessible by car?
Accessible via the Wild Steens Mountain Loop Road - the highest road in Oregon with an elevation of 9,700ft (2,971m) - Wildhorse Lake can be reached by car. However, the rough, narrow, unpaved road requires caution when driving, and visitors are advised to check the road's integrity since rainfall could cause washouts. Show more